Kremlin still hopes to draw official Minsk into trade war with Kiev

April 22, 2016 18:53

A member of the Board on Trade in the Eurasian Economic Union, Minister Slepnyov, said that the Eurasian Economic Union did not preclude introducing protective measures on the Customs Union market due to Ukraine’s signing of the Association Agreement with the EU.

It should be noted that Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have already introduced unilateral restrictions on certain groups of goods from Ukraine, for example, on confectionery products, referring to internal reasons - to protect their markets under the import substitution policy. The Kremlin aspires to present unilateral measures taken by Belarus and Kazakhstan to restrict imports of Ukrainian goods, as joint actions of the Customs Union members in the EurAsEC – in order to put pressure on Kiev and strengthen the propaganda effect. However, official Minsk is not interested in siding with the Kremlin and participating in a trade war – quite the opposite, it hopes to increase trade with Ukraine.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.